Fusion grill offers twist on Thai traditions

When you think of Thai food, the first things that probably come to mind are either pad Thai or hot chilies. Qi Thai Grill, a restaurant that opened in Williamsburg earlier this month, strives to expand the horizons of the Thai food connoisseur. Unlike most fusion restaurants, Qi aims to introduce authentic flavors to its dishes and to share a delightfully unusual dining experience.

Most people are familiar with basic pad Thai — the choice of chicken or beef within a melange of bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, coriander, fish sauce and chewy pho noodles. Qi’s pad Thai ($14.90) is entirely seafood-based. It is a rendition of the original form of pad Thai, a street food dish cooked with sun-dried shrimp, scallops, calamari and mussels tossed with sautéed glass vermicelli, bean sprouts, scallions and tamarind juice. Qi’s Pad Thai, which is served wrapped in an egg white crepe, was designed by chef Siwa Sila.

Sripraphai Tipmanee, the owner of renowned Thai spot SriPraPhai in Queens, designs small plates, and pastry chef Pichet Ong concocts grilled items and desserts.

“[Ong and Tipmaneee] were very concerned with bringing Thai food to the next level,” said Ahm Bopit, a partner at Qi. “We all wanted the food to represent authentic Thai cooking, while putting a spin on it that is entirely our own.”

Williamsburg, an incubator for many start-up establishments like the Brooklyn Brewery and Mast Brothers Chocolate, has provided exciting experimental ground for Qi.

“People in Williamsburg are very open to trying new things,” Bopit said. “We designed the interior so that it reflects the laid-back and comfortable vibe of the neighborhood.”

Converted from a warehouse, the restaurant space might be the epitome of authenticity. Qi’s traditional, rickety bar stools were imported from Thailand, as were large, golden temple bells. One striking interior feature is a child-size statuette of Ganesha, a Hindu deity. The figure stands atop a marble fountain in the middle of the restaurant.

Most, if not all of the dishes at Qi, reflect prominent Indian and Chinese influences. Especially notable are the spicy pork trotters ($8.90), which are sautéed, marinated and infused with basil, chili, rare young pepper corn and chili jam. Another menu favorite is the set of pork ribs with an Ovaltine barbecue glaze ($8.90). The floating market stewed beef noodles ($11.90) are a mix of braised beef, beef tendons, Chinese broccoli, celery and crispy pork skin, deliciously entwined with rice noodles in a five-spice cinnamon broth.

Herbs and spices, like lemongrass, ginger and kaffirlime, are key players in Thai cuisine. Qi incorporates all of these delicious flavors into its culinary offerings.

The best way to finish a meal at Qi is with one of their astounding desserts, like the taro mousse ($7.90), a beautiful concoction of coconut cream, sponge cake and chocolate, paired with green tea ice cream and dipped in sesame crumbles and a sweet blackberry jam.

By painting each dish with wildly eclectic ingredient combinations and recognizable Asian flavors, the chefs at Qi have paved the way for transcendent fusion cuisine.

Click the image below for a tour of Qi Thai Grill’s interior and a sampling of its dishes.

A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 30 print edition. Angel Chang is dining editor. Email her at achang@nyunews.com.

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